June 12, 2024

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‘Should not have happened’: Brooklyn building collapse at illegal site kills worker, officials say

3 min read

A 33-year-old construction worker was killed on the job Friday after the first floor of a two-story residential home collapsed in Borough Park, Brooklyn, as illegal work was being performed on the structure, city officials said.

Fire and buildings department officials said three construction workers were at the site when the first floor collapsed into the cellar, pinning and killing one of the men. The others survived, and officials said no other victims were discovered nearby.

Police and emergency responders arrived on scene shortly after 12 p.m. Emergency medical service workers pronounced the 33 year old dead on the scene.

According to the Department of Buildings, the work at the site was being done illegally.

“There are absolutely no plans submitted to the Department of Buildings, so this fatality absolutely should not have happened,” said DOB Commissioner James Oddo. “They should not have been doing this work let alone having a Bobcat [construction vehicle] inside this structure.”

Oddo said the department received complaints about the site in late December and could not gain access to the home. When inspectors returned in early January, building officials issued a partial stop-work order.

“The only work that should have been done at this site is to make the site safe,” Oddo said. “And as you can see that stop-work order was violated.”

Oddo stopped short of making criminal accusations but said the fines alone could run into six figures.

A police spokesperson said they would not release the deceased man’s identity until notifying his family.

But by 3:30 p.m. the man’s family had arrived at the site and identified him as Juan Ganche, saying he had immigrated from Ecuador and worked in construction since arriving in the United States 14 years ago.

Carlos Gonzalez, Ganche’s brother-in-law, said Ganche has three children and lived in Corona, Queens.

The worker’s death was the first fatality recorded at a construction site in New York City this year, the DOB said.

Department records show the property was hit with a partial stop-work order for “interior demolition of an occupied residential building” with “no permits posted,” in late December. Inspectors returned to the building Jan. 4 and flagged “excavation/foundation” work at a wall roughly 35 feet long and 12 feet high, without DOB permits. The partial stop-work order was still in place on Friday, according to DOB records.

Court filings, building records and tax documents list the building owner as Juda Horowitz. He did not respond to multiple phone calls seeking comment.

This is the second residential building collapse in recent weeks. An apartment building partially collapsed in the Bronx in mid-December, displacing dozens of tenants.

New York City construction site deaths reached a five-year high in 2022, according to federal data, prompting lawmakers to enact stiffer penalties on companies whose workers are killed or injured on the job. The measure was named Carlos’ Law in honor of construction worker Carlos Moncayo, who was killed on a Manhattan construction site in 2015.

Construction site deaths and injuries very rarely lead to criminal charges or convictions. Last April, a construction and management company were charged with manslaughter after a worker was crushed to death and four others were injured in the Bronx.

A contractor was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in Brooklyn last May, five years after a worker was crushed by nearly eight tons of debris on the job site.

This is a developing story and has been updated.

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